From Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur's Soul


Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.

Margaret Mead

I had hit rock bottom. Living in the Bronx and working in Manhattan, I was depressed and bedridden from a back injury that occurred while lifting a heavy package at work. As a young mother with an overworked husband and two small children, whom I had difficulty caring for, I was confined to our house, living with severe pain.

Doctors were no longer able to help me after an unsuccessful back surgery. I was living on painkillers with no hope in sight. In the Bible it says that “God is able to do abundantly more than we could ever dare to dream or imagine.” At that time, I was totally unable to envision myself well or successful. Yet God had other plans for my life.

The only saving grace that existed in my life was the monthly disability check I received for my children and myself. I willingly handed these checks over to my husband as my contribution to our budget. Then came that dreaded day when the U.S. government stopped sending my checks! It felt like a knife had been jammed into my heart. I sank to the floor and cried, “God, how could you do this? That money was everything, absolutely everything to me.” I felt as though all my self-worth was summed up in those monthly checks.

Another factor about my lack of self-worth had to do with my appearance. One of my newest accessories was a hideous back brace, thus causing my wardrobe to shrink to only three pairs of old polyester pants, the only things that fit me comfortably. New clothes were out of the question for me; I was too disabled to even dream of going shopping, and besides, our family budget was way too tight. My hair was out of style, I seldom left the house, and life for me was just too difficult.

Eventually, I found myself getting gradually better and my life took a dramatic turn. I no longer needed painkillers or those clumsy braces for my back and feet. I began to attend every Bible study I heard about, and my life had taken a course toward normalcy.

Years later, as a busy young mom, I felt tired and run down. A friend told me about a food substance called “Royal Jelly,” a product derived from the beehive—it was so amazing!

A very exciting feeling began to emerge within me. I was so passionate about this marvelous substance and how it made me feel that I wanted to share it with others. Just the thought of helping people feel their best naturally and, in particular, helping women feel good about themselves energized me. Then I had a realization: How could a very ordinary housewife and mother with no college education or business experience, and little money of her own, ever get started? I can’t even balance my own checkbook! Then I reflected to a scripture verse that says, “Do not despise the day of small beginnings.”

So there I was at my kitchen table pondering the big question: Where do I begin? I knew I needed money, so I went to the bank to borrow $4,000. The loan officer quickly dismissed me and my plan from his office. I thank God for my devoted husband who believed in me and took the money from our account. Thus, Bee-Alive officially began in November 1984.

At the beginning, I bought a small amount of product from a company in England and created a lapel button that read, “Royal Jelly Works.” This was my first marketing endeavor. As I wore the button through the town, many people laughed at me and, in private, I often would cry. But I persevered and after repeatedly explaining that Royal Jelly was not jam or jelly, but the exclusive food of the queen bee, some people started listening. Soon my children and six dear friends joined my new little company, and they all wore buttons. Slowly, we began to get orders. Then, something amazing happened, customers were feeling more energetic and began to reorder. Within a year, my vision was taking form, and the basement of my house became the “little hive.” We had only one computer and a few telephones and desks. All we needed now were more workers. So I started hiring women like myself, many of whom were delighted customers themselves. Business was buzzing!

Our marketing plan went beyond the buttons to airing one-minute commercials on radio stations across the country. Then we produced our own radio shows and television infomercials. Many celebrities who enjoyed our products endorsed them in print and on-air advertisements. Having outgrown the basement, we moved to a brand-new building—the “big hive”—in Valley Cottage, New York. We also opened our own warehouse and distribution center to safeguard the quality of our products—and to insure direct delviery to our customers. In 1997 we began selling Royal Jelly on a major home shopping network. As demand and interest grew, we expanded our product line to include unique formulations of skin-care products. Now we had a line of products that were helping people inside and out. What a thrill!

Today, over twenty years from its small beginning, Bee-Alive is a national health and beauty company and the foremost Royal Jelly company in the world. I believe that the bottom line for its success is that Royal Jelly is an outstanding product and that God has faithfully guided every step we’ve taken—and we are smart enough to listen. Our fresh, non-freeze-dried Royal Jelly is helping people and improving their lives. As a direct marketing company, we sell directly to our customers. Our enthusiastic and caring telephone consultants speak with each of them personally, getting to know them and listening to their needs—something I think is very special in this marketplace. The many letters I receive weekly from contented customers remind me of the bond we have with so many people.

Who would have thought a girl from the Bronx with three pairs of polyester pants would become the founder and president of a company that helps people enrich their own lives every day? Wearing silk pants these days and living a blessed lifestyle, I am amazed at how God helps ordinary people do extraordinary things.

Madeline Balletta

[EDITORS’ NOTE: Bee-Alive offers a variety of Royal Jelly products, herbal and vitamin supplements, and skin-care facial products. To learn more about Madeline Balletta and Bee-Alive, visit their Web site at]

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